Lonely seems to be the new normal
We all need connection and a sense of belonging. We all need people.
Living alone brings its own challenges. Loneliness, social isolation, and isolation are three terms that we frequently use to describe feeling alone.
But loneliness isn’t inevitable. While there are legitimate reasons to live alone, there are also ways to thrive. Loneliness isn’t just about sadness — it’s often accompanied by anxiety, depression, restlessness, boredom, anger, irritability, and apathy. It can also contribute to health problems.
Loneliness starts when we feel disconnected from others. It could be due to social reasons, physical reasons, or both. Social isolation is the feeling that you have few or no friends, and it often happens to people living alone.
Isolation is the feeling you have nobody to share your interests or concerns with. There’s no denying it. Loneliness and social isolation are rough. They make it harder to get out of bed in the morning and tougher to feel happy. They can make you depressed and anxious.
The truth is, many people feel lonely. One 2014 study found that nearly half of Americans aged 18 and older had experienced loneliness. Another found that a third of American adults over age 65 felt lonely. Recent studies suggest that loneliness can have a significant impact on health. Loneliness has been linked to poor health in older adults, increased blood pressure, and even increased rates of dementia.
A 2019 survey by Pew Research Center found that 55% of adults ages 18 to 29 say they’re satisfied with their social networks, compared to 67% in 1995.
However, only 37% of young adults said their social networks were extremely important to them, compared to 48% in 1995.
The good news is that loneliness is a feeling, not a life sentence. Millions of people around the world have discovered ways to feel better.
The trick is acknowledging that you feel stuck and doing something about the situation.
Here are some ways to combat loneliness:
- Reach out.
It can be scary to reach out to someone you don’t know, or even to someone you know. But the worst thing you can do is stay in your comfort zone.
Surround yourself with people who make you feel good. Go out with them. Get to know them.
- Focus on what you can do.
It’s hard not to focus on all the reasons you can’t be happy. Instead, think about how you can be happy.
- Pursue your passion.
Everyone has at least one passion. Whether it’s photography, cooking, travel, or pottery, find something that makes you happy and invest time in it.
- Practice gratitude.
Gratitude can help combat loneliness by reminding you of all the good things you have in your life. You can combat loneliness by connecting with a community of people.
Consider joining a social club, such as bowling, book club, bridge club, or hiking. You can also volunteer to work with children or animals or join a group that shares your hobby. If you’re tired of being alone, consider options like riding the bus or train, inviting a neighbor over, or calling up an old friend. Engage in hobbies or activities that engage your senses — cooking, painting, writing, making music, or knitting. Talk to people. Pay attention to other people’s body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice. Hang out with people. A few minutes on the phone or in-person can make a big difference in your feelings of loneliness.
The average American spends 12 hours a day working, commuting, eating, sleeping, socializing, and taking care of other responsibilities. There’s little time or energy left over for self-reflection. If you’re feeling lonely, start by addressing your loneliness head-on. Understand that loneliness is a normal human feeling. There’s nothing better to combat loneliness than pushing yourself, doing something you enjoy, and sharing experiences with others.
The quickest way to beat loneliness is to get outside your head.